October 14, 2019
Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an official holiday in more than 125 American cities. This includes Olympia, WA, the home of our offices here at RCF, a city that sits upon occupied Nisqually and Squaxin land. Indigenous Peoples’ Day was originally introduced to interrupt the mythology undergirding Columbus Day, which celebrates Columbus as a heroic adventurer instead of exposing him as the murderous marauder he was. Undoubtedly, the lionization of Columbus that is typical in the US, as well as the similar treatment given to the genocidal “pioneers” that would arrive in the centuries to follow, is no anomaly. All settler colonial states work tirelessly to disavow the founding violence that is necessary to their existence.
Today, however, I am focusing my celebration on the resistance and resilience of Indigenous peoples around the world. As Indigenous-led organizations fight to protect Mauna Kea, thousands of Indigenous activists in Brazil have descended upon the capital to combat Bolsonaro’s assault on their rights and territories. This resistance reminds all of us – and particularly those of us who are settlers – that Indigenous claims as the rightful caretakers of the places from which they originate cannot be extinguished through the colonial will. After the massacres, ethnic cleansing, and other modes of elimination historically waged by the settler, native title persists. The resistance also shows us that Indigenous communities, although the targets of unspeakable violence, have never been erased. This is not a story of defeat and victory. To be sure, as the late scholar Patrick Wolfe reminded us, settler colonialism is a structure, not an event.
As this structure persists, so does the will to dismantle it. In that vein, I am thinking particularly about our friends in Palestine. We know that, in the time since the Oslo Accords, the Israeli settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has more than tripled. We know that Palestinians live under a settler colonial regime that still – nearing the year 2020 – refuses to declare its borders as a means to appropriate more land. As such, we reaffirm our dedication to partnering with folks on the ground who are challenging this settler regime on a daily basis. In the weeks leading up to the new year, I will be in touch again with details on how you can directly support this work.
For now, let us celebrate not only the history of the world’s Indigenous peoples, but also their futures.
Policy Analyst & Communications Manager